Friday, May 26, 2017

WWE's Ratings Decline: Blame the Fans??

Today we have a guest writer offering his take on WWE's rather disturbing practice of blaming the audience for its own shortcomings.  Please welcome Joseph Chaplin (@JosephChaplin20), a prominent member of the WrestleNation Forum group on Facebook, whose writing can also be found at

"Wrestling is an art." Yes, the somewhat controversial words of Ricochet (following his match last year vs. Will Ospreay at Korakuen Hall) do hold some weight. In a post-kayfabe world, wrestling has embraced an increased capacity as a means of self-expression. Different styles and cultures of wrestling have developed into all sorts of hybrids - some more successful than others - and the huge prevalence of the internet in the wrestling world has made the accessibility of these styles easier than ever before. Nobody could have predicted just a few years ago that longtime New Japan Pro Wrestling stalwart Shinsuke Nakamura would be headlining WWE-produced shows, or that NJPW itself would offer a streaming service to fans as it continues a trek towards worldwide success. That’s not to ignore the worldwide consortium of indie promotions now available through FloSlam - US, UK and German promotions have all expanded greatly thanks to the advent of online streaming in wrestling.

Not only has the internet altered how we can consume wrestling, it has turned the discourse surrounding it upside-down. Now more than ever, it’s possible to discover and share new wrestling with friends and acquaintances all over the world. Just the other day, I was learning about a niche kind of women’s wrestling to have developed in Bolivia. It’s the kind of unlimited exposure that would have given a tape trader a heart attack in years gone by.

Of course, not all development is positive. Wrestling - as with anything - has been subject to more and more negative discussion as a result of the internet. The unfiltered anonymity afforded to so many leads, predictably, to all sorts of trolling. Worse than mere trolling, however, is the movement of placing blame on the fanbase for the state of a product or a promotion. I find more and more that criticism aimed at the output of any wrestling promotion - and unfortunately WWE in particular - is often met with degrees of the same sentiment. The classic “Well, why are you still watching?” “I bet you couldn’t do any better” or “These guys go out there to entertain and that deserves respect no matter what.” It seems as though some would choose to conflate criticism of content with an outright dismissal or disrespect of the minds behind the content.

If you ask me, that attitude - that aggressive rebuke of criticism, no matter how constructive - is what’s causing the startling decline in WWE’s viewerbase. It’s no secret that TV ratings right now are, as Bret Hart might say, the shits. We have seen the decline - happening very slowly in the last fifteen years - grow significantly worse. The most recent episode of Monday Night Raw suffered a 5% drop-off from last week against easier NBA competition. Although a drop in the ocean of worrisome TV ratings (ahead of next year’s contract negotiations with USA Network), this instance is representative of the WWE TV decline beginning to go beyond sports and other media as a source of blame. Naturally, one would think the blame now needs to go inwards. WWE needs to examine the wild inconsistency of its own output and the reductive treatment of both fans and performers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1995)

No WCW.....don't do it!

Ah crap, they did it.....

SuperBrawl V - Baltimore Arena - 2.19.95

Welp, this was only two months removed from the dreadful Starrcade '94, at a time when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had taken everything that made WCW what it was and chucked it out the goddamn window (except Ric Flair, whom they kept around just to torture for seven more years).  The result was a mostly horrible in-ring product with a bunch of recognizable stars from the old WWF, plus a few guys whose inclusion on the roster absolutely baffles me.

It should be noted that an Arn Anderson-Johnny B. Badd TV Title match was on the pre-show and got a whopping four-and-a-half minutes.  Remember this as you read the list of luminaries that actually made the main card.  Fuckin' hell.....

First up we have Alex Wright vs. Paul Roma, in what was a pretty nondescript opener apart from a few clever moves by Wright.  Not sure why he was facing half of a tag team, but whatever.  He had solid potential but never really lived up to it.  Roma played a good douchebag but was more or less irrelevant by 1995.  Wright won with a rollup after shoving Roma into Orndorff.

The less said about this next match the better.  Jim Duggan vs. Bunkhouse Buck.  Holy shit this match was boring.  Two inept brawlers slogging through an eleven-minute match.  What kinda generic-ass gimmick is Bunkhouse Buck?  A farmer guy.  That's it.  Awful stuff.  Duggan won with the lamest-looking clothesline ever.

I'm in hell.  Next up is Kevin Sullivan vs. Dave Sullivan - also terrible.  Dave Sullivan was of course Kevin's younger brother (not in real life), who moved as though in slow motion.  Where did WCW get all these hack wrestlers in the mid 90s?  Evad, Bunkhouse, The Renegade; all of them useless.  This was just about as dull as the previous match and ended mercifully when Kevin rolled Dave up and hooked the tights.  Who in God's name thought Kevin Sullivan was relevant enough in 1995 to have a singles feud with his pretend brother?  Hilariously enough Brutus Beefcake, the main event challenger from Starrcade '94 two months earlier, was Kevin Sullivan's sidekick in the third match on this show.

Seriously, who was shelling out 30 bucks to see this??

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Top Ten Things: May PPV Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  

Today I'll be talkin' wrestling (What a shock), specifically the ten best PPV matches to have taken place in the month of May.  WWE's PPV calendar has only included May for the past 20 years, but those two decades have yielded some veritable classics.  I've also included a trio of New Japan matches, from their annual May event Wrestling Dontaku.  .....And that's enough of an intro.  Let's get to it!

10. The Rock vs. Triple H - Judgment Day - 5.21.00

The Rock-Triple H saga had been raging on and off for three years by this point and this Iron Man match was more or less the climax of the feud.  The first of its type since Bret vs. Shawn four years earlier, this match was very different from its predecessor; instead of a methodical mat-based contest it was a wild brawl with a total of 11 falls.  Triple H was on a roll in mid-2000, having grown into an excellent ring general heel, while The Rock was in peak form as the new face of the company.  The finish was significant due to the surprise return of The Undertaker, who had vanished in late '99 after walking off RAW (in reality due to a groin injury).  Sporting a new biker persona, Taker attacked DX just before time expired, and inadvertently cost The Rock the WWF Title.

9. Steve Austin vs. Dude Love - Over the Edge - 5.31.98

One of the most fun Attitude Era matches was this Falls Count Anywhere match that raged all over the arena.  The Austin Era had begun and Vince McMahon was doing everything in his power to get the WWF Title off of him, including appointing himself as guest referee, Gerald Briscoe as guest timekeeper, and Pat Patterson as ring announcer.  Austin however had persuaded the Undertaker to act as ringside enforcer, keeping Vince honest.  The battle included several crazy spots on the "car wreck" entranceway set, including Dude being hip-tossed through the windshield.  Late in the match Dude Love accidentally knocked out Vince with a chair, and Taker chokeslammed both of Vince's stooges.  The finish came when Austin hit the Stunner before counting his own pin with an unconscious Vince's hand.  This was one of the more creative brawls of Austin's main event run.

8. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - Judgment Day - 5.20.01

In 2001 the two best technical wrestlers in the WWF began a rivalry that would last nearly two years on and off.  After a 14-minute gem at WrestleMania 17 and a 30-minute Submission match the following month, Angle and Benoit faced off at Judgment Day in a Three Stages of Hell match, where the first fall would be a standard match, the second would be submission-only, and the third would be a Ladder Match for Angle's Olympic Gold Medal.  Benoit would quickly win the first fall (probably too quickly) but Angle came back to take the second and third (with help from Edge & Christian) in a tremendous match.  The two would resume their feud in late 2002 and add several other classics to their respective resumes.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top Ten Things: Chris Cornell Albums

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things here at

Chris Cornell's suicide last week has left a ragged, gaping hole in the music world many of us are still struggling to come to terms with.  As my colleague Dan Moore talked about HERE, Cornell was a golden-throated force of nature, whose mindbending vocal range and soulful power were unmatched in rock music.  He rose to prominence as one of the pioneers of grunge but later explored genres as wide-ranging as singer/songwriter rock, adult contemporary, folk, and even dance pop.  Few artists have created such a wildly divergent body of work, and for me no other singer ever wielded his instrument with such effortless agility and emotive grace.  My coping mechanism has been to learn and record as many of his songs as I can and hope I do them even a modicum of justice (You be the judge).

But today I'll be talking about his amazing discography as I count down my ten favorite Cornell albums.  Here we go.....

10. Chris Cornell - Scream

Cornell's most divisive album was 2009's Scream, an electronic pop collaboration with hotshot producer Timbaland that combined Chris's rock songwriting sensibility with a hooky R&B sound.  The results were understandably mixed, but the album yielded some excellently written songs, like the bleakly syncopated "Time," the anthemic, strikingly mature love song "Never Far Away," and the title track, a gloomy ode to relationship strife.  While far from Cornell's best work, Scream showed an artist cheerfully exploring new territory and reinventing himself.

9. Soundgarden - King Animal

Cornell's grunge quartet had split in 1997 but reunited 13 years later for a tour, and began writing new music for their sixth studio album.  The result was King Animal, a safe but fairly triumphant return for one of the genre's earliest paradigms that fit right in with their previous output.  Album highlights included the Sabbathy "Blood on the Valley Floor," the eccentric, off-balance "Bones of Birds," the folky "Halfway There" which would've been at home on a Cornell solo record, and the classic Soundgarden feel of "Eyelid's Mouth."  It was a long time coming, but King Animal would be a worthy Soundgarden record and ultimately the band's final completed work.

8. Audioslave - Out of Exile

After his first solo album's disappointing commercial performance, Cornell was able to reinvigorate his career by forming a supergroup with three members of then-defunct Rage Against the Machine, creating an unusual groove-rock hybrid.  Their second album is our #8 entry on this list.  Released in 2005, Out of Exile may not have been the hard rock powderkeg of the band's debut, but it was a perfectly sturdy followup, providing trademark Tom Morello guitar riffs in songs like "Your Time Has Come" and the title track, and some gentler, more thoughtful tunes like "Be Yourself" and "Doesn't Remind Me."  Out of Exile built on the successful formula of the first record and in retrospect serves as a fine companion piece.

Monday, May 22, 2017

WWE Backlash 2017 Review: Really? REALLY??

It's amazing I'm able to type this review, considering I threw my hands up in disbelief at the end of Backlash and haven't taken them down since.  The situation is beyond baffling and I don't think there's a more devalued championship in all of wrestling right now than the WWE Title (although the Universal Title comes close).

Before we get to that shit show though, let's look at Backlash's undercard, which was pretty good overall.

The show opened with Shinsuke Nakamura's long-awaited main roster debut against Dolph Ziggler.  The two had a solid back-and-forth match that never quite reached Great territory but was perfectly serviceable as Nak's debut.  I liked that they saved his first match for a PPV and that the announcers touted his unique skillset.  I wasn't crazy about Ziggler getting quite so much offense, as it seemed like they were going out of their way to protect him, when that's never been a concern of theirs before.  But this was a fine initial outing for Nak and I look forward to seeing what's next for him.

The surprise hit of the show for me was the Usos-Breezango Tag Title match.  The comedy element should never have worked as well as it did.  Breeze and Fandango have a pretty goddamn hilarious thing going here and it's nice to see them embrace something that on paper looks so stupid, and make it work.  This match won't win any awards, but it was highly entertaining and the crowd ate it up.  No complaints about this one.

Another match I was pleasantly surprised by was Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn.  Zayn was great as always, taking a beating better than anyone, but Corbin held up his end of the match, selling frustration with not being able to put Sami away.  The ending was really well-booked, with Sami hitting a boot to the face to create an opening long enough for the Heluva Kick.  I was glad to be wrong about this result.  Zayn should be one of the top babyfaces in the company.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Gauche Town 5.21.17: Pre-Backlash Backlash

by Graham LaGauche

Hey, we’re back from an away game, also called “The UK” in some circles, and we’ve had one or two developments!

Backlash is this weekend, and the biggest story of the year is Erick Rowan and his procural of a bag to hold his masks! He’s got a bunch now. One for laughing, one for breathing, one for watching soap operas and ironing his jumpsuit, one for when he’s touring with Slipknot, probably. It’s a go-home episode of Smackdown Live, so they’re pulling out all the stops for this one. On the talk show that follows Smackdown Live.

Whatever, I actually dig what they’re selling with Rowan, and I really like that he’s all “I leave for a little bit and now everything sucks.” He’s pissed that when he returned to The Wyatt Family, there was all this infighting and shit and now his leader is gone and exposed as a nerd who was a member of the A.V. club in high school. I’m pissed too, buddy.

So that makes me think Rowan has a shot at pinning Luke Harper at Backfat, otherwise what happens to Rowan if he takes a loss? Nothing, and that sucks, cause I like him. Maybe Bray left him some unused tricks in the Smackdown locker room, that are hopefully not just spooky hand-buzzers and trick maggot-gum.

Sami Zayn is not a jobber but his job is to lose. Does that make sense? Sami’s in a heated feud with Baron Corbin and all the heat is coming from Sami. Corbin’s phoning in attacks while Sami’s selling his ass off in and out of the ring. Baron’s got some great moves if you like tilt-a-whirl style slams and sliding out under the ropes. He would look cool if it wasn’t for his clothes, his attitude, and his bellybutton.

Sami, on the other hand listens to ska, skanks, overanalyzes everything, and wears checkered pants and goofy hats. Pretty much everything that’s indefensible, and I’m all in every time he steps in the ring. It takes a special soul reaper to cheer against Sami, no matter how lame he is on paper. His determination to not suck in the ring washes away all of that. So he’s gonna lose, Corbin will continue to get pushed, and I’ll have to think of new ways to make fun of his hair.

The Welcoming Committee has to win, or else why are we here, when there’s no way to explain how two of the worst wrestlers in the company, and Nattie, can beat half of the 4 Horsewomen and the Smackdown Women’s champ? Naomi is one of the best wrestlers today, as long as you keep her away from Charlotte. The two of them seem to forget how to wrestle when they fight.

WWE Backlash 2017 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another in the looooong line of WWE Predictions, here at!

This Sunday is the Smackdown brand's first PPV since WrestleMania, and they certainly have their work cut out for them if they want to put on a shittier, less satisfying show than RAW's Payback PPV.  Jeezus on a pogo stick that show sucked.  Anyway, Backlash certainly has some solid stuff to offer, and then one of the stupider WWE Title matches, which is likely to just be an extended bathroom break.  Eh, that's fine, I'll scarf down a couple triple cheeseburgers and a bucket of chili fries to ensure I'll hafta take a long, arduous dump during this stupid match.

Anyway, let's get to it.

***I currently lead this season with 55% accuracy compared to Dan and Landon's 50%.  Backlash's nonsensical booking screwed us all, but me especially.***

Preshow Match: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

Mr. English is flying solo since his douchebag of a former partner Simon Gotch got himself released.  Gotch apparently thought he was too big a star to be in a jobber tag team - what an inflated turdball.  Dillinger has been mostly in showcase matches since his call-up, and I expect this to be more of the same.

Justin's pick: Tye
Dan's pick: Who??  Whatever, Dillinger.
Landon's pick: For lack of an actual pick, Tye so I don't risk lagging behind in points

Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn

Zayn has gone from getting killed by Braun Strowman to getting killed by Baron Corbin.  Poor Sami.  This match could be fun or it could suck.  But I'm guessing Vince's hard-on for big men prevails once again.

Justin's pick: Corbin
Dan's pick: Yeah.
Landon's pick: Corbin

NXT Takeover: Chicago Preview & Predictions

I should be really hyped for this show. The crowd is probably going to be insane, the matches are going to be fun. But...I don't know, my love for NXT have dimmed in the past couple years. And this is the guy7 who went and saw them in Columbas back to back years. I used to love NXT, but in recent months the brand went from a great match factory to an empty vessel of what it was in 2014. Oh well, enough bitching and on to the PPV.

Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young

Roderick Strong remains one of my favorite wrestlers, and the video packages of the past few weeks have made him out to be the biggest hero in NXT currently. Eric Young has been doing better work than I ever would have thought with his Sanity faction. I'm very high on the four of them, and I think they could be the first faction in NXT history to hold all the titles at once. And I'd be 100% okay with this.

Landon's Pick: Strong needs to look good if he's going to challenge Roode. Strong to win.
Justin's Pick: What a TNA throwback.  I dunno, I think they keep Young winning via nefarious means.

Asuka vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross, for the NXT Women's Championship

We have officially run out of things for Asuka to kill. Dropping the title to Ember Moon was the best option we've had so far, and now we're just kind of...what, waiting for the Joshi batch coming in? Fucking hell. I used to like multimans a lot. Now I can only see them as a message of "we're out of ideas, so here's a crazy schmozz".

Landon's Pick: Well Ember WAS in this match and I would have picked her, but Asuka to retain I guess
Justin's Pick: Yes, it was clearly going to be Ember's time, but now they have to stall.  Asuka retains.

Uncle Miggsy's Preakness Preview

by Mike Parker

The second leg of the Triple Crown is here, the 142nd running of the Preakness stakes (If you missed my analysis on the first leg don’t feel bad, I forgot to post it). I’d recommend attending this “lovely” affair but I don’t want to lie to you. Spend the extra money and go to the Kentucky Derby. The derby takes in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky at a great track known for its iconic twin spires, Churchill downs, highlighted by well dress people drinking mint juleps. The Preakness is held at Pimlico Race Course just outside of the hell hole that is Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a mostly faceless track overrun with binge drinking buffoons. 

Like these two buffoons. 

Check out this review from a few years ago. And take it as a warning to never go there. 

Let’s just get to the part everybody loves, making fun of horse names…


Race 8: 

Adonis Creed (Sounds like a Rocky foe) [EDITOR'S NOTE: Uh...that's Apollo Creed's son, stupid] 

(Uncle Miggsy Note: I was informed after this was written that it was indeed a Rocky character. ¯\_()_/¯) 

Berks County (Berk has no county. He’d sell out for a box of titelists or ho ho’s whatever you have.)

Chubby Star (Bowfinger voice ‘You’re gunna be a star’)

Referencing a 20 year old bomb of a movie that no one saw? NAILED IT

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell: July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017

By Dan Moore

Another rock legend, gone far, far too soon. 

You knew when you were listening to Chris Cornell the second his 'voice' was heard. I use voice in quotations as I believe whatever that man had living in his vocal chords was more a force of nature than a mere voice like us common folk. His multi-octave screech could be heard for miles, be it from your radio or live in concert.

Cornell died last night amid circumstances that are still up in the air. But that’s neither here nor there. If it turns out that his personal demons were enough that he decided there was only one way out, then the end of his life was as dark as his middle years were bright.  

He came from the Seattle grunge scene with Soundgarden, along with other great Seattle bands, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney & Screaming Trees, among many, many others. But his sound was far and away the most unique. That distinctive screech of his is something you didn’t just hear, you absorbed. One of the first songs I ever heard him sing was “Birth Ritual”.

Try going back to your pop songs after that one. 

After hearing that, the quest was on to collect as much Soundgarden as possible. Superunknown was the first album I bought by them, but that was quickly followed by Badmotorfinger, which I consider their magnum opus. It has the classics “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Rusty Cage” & my personal favorite, "Searching with My Good Eye Closed". The Temple of the Dog followed that. It was a collaboration of Pearl Jam & Cornell. Essentially, Cornell fronting Pearl Jam for an album. And my god, it’s glorious.

But Cornell was more than grunge, as he proved with a later solo career, which was anything but routine. His solo outings ranged from rock to blues to pop to, no shit, an almost hip hop like album, Scream. He had no real genre that could define him.

And, get this, when he decided to go back into straight ROCK MAN, he fronted a new band, Audioslave, which was him DESTROYING vocals in front of Rage Against the Machine. That’s right, he decided to rock out with one of the best rock bands in the world at the time. No big whoop. He could do no wrong.

In these most recent years, he had continued his solo work and got back together with the band he’ll be most known for, Soundgarden. I’ll remember him as that small looking guy with that gigantic tornado sound emanating from his throat. He was a legit one of a kind talent, and the musical world is so much smaller now without him in it. 

Say Hello to Heaven...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We Are At War: WCW Slamboree (1998)

Fucking got that right.

WCW/nWo Slamboree, May 17th, 1998
Tenay, Schiavone, and Heenan are trying really hard to explain everything we're going to see. props to them, cause even secondhand, I know how wacky this show has been in the past few months.

Fit Finlay vs. Chris Benoit for the World Television Title
This match was as good as you would think a match between these two would be, which has a high ceiling of potential. The crowd was amazingly awake for this match, and the opening minutes were a spectacle of technical wrestling and striking from both men. But, as Finlay is inclined to do, turned to the roughneck breaking down of Chris both outside of the ring and in.  Benoit got momentum back, and tried a suicide dive to the ring. Finlay decided to crank him in the head with a steel chair to counter it, and I screamed. This was Not a Disqualification. Booker T came out to distract Benoit, which let Finlay take advantage, but not the fall. This came shortly after the distraction with a Tombstone.
Meltzer Rating: ***1/4
A really good match, not that I doubted it would be. But as it went longer, it slowed down and the crowd started to die. Still would recommend it to people who want to watch a good match.

Brian Adams (w/Vincent) vs Lex Luger
Lex Luger looks like hes made of tanned bacon. If the match had ended with zero offense from Adams it would have been better, Luger's opening offense had the crowd crazy. But I guess there had to be heat. Torture Rack is over.
Meltzer Rating: 1/2*
This was okay. Always wish Crush had gotten over.

Perry Saturn cuts a very good, intense promo.

Cruiserweight Number 1 Contendership Battle Royal
Chris Jericho was always a charismatic bastard. He managed to introduce everyone to the ring with some slandering bullshit. It was awesome. Literally every man under 220 in WCW was in this match...besides the important ones (Eddie, Rey Mysterio, Dragon, etc. Though I don't know where Rey is honestly...). Dean Malenko, under a mask and full body suit, won the match and unmasked, getting the biggest and most sustained reaction of the night.

Chris Jericho vs Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Title
Malenko took 75% of the match, ignoring most of his technical arsenal in favor of just beating Jericho down. Because Malenko understood that sometimes, you have to change what you do in the ring to portray the story you're trying to tell properly. The top rope gutbuster from Malenko is still great and scary. Dean eventually got the submission with the Cloverleaf, and the crowd went wild.
Meltzer Rating: ***1/4
It was a very good match that may have had the most build of anything on the card. It's amazing what a little forethought can do for your match.

Diamond Dallas Page vs Raven, Bowery Death Cage Match
It's the battle of the Nirvana covers. If you're asking what a Bowery Death Cage Match is, it's the child of a Last Man Standing and a Hell in a Cell match that was raised by ECW. The two had a very good, well paced fight. It wasn't an ECW weapons match, but a good brawl that had weapons involved. Both DDP and Raven tried their best, but the fans in the arena couldn't see shit, so there was no reaction. Flock got involved, Flock got Diamond Cutter'd, eventually Raven ate one as well.
DDP answered the 10 count when Raven couldn't.
Meltzer Rating: **1/2
Pretty fun to watch. Kanyon came into the ring and delivered the chair shot of all death on Raven. The crowd did not react

They showed a security officer looking for McMahon, DX and Steve Austin with black and white pictures of them all for reference. Because, for some reason, they wanted to convince us that someone didn't know what Steve Austin or Vince McMahon looked like

Eddie Guerrero (w/Chavo Guerrero) vs Ultimo Dragon
There is certainly a part of me that wished this match took place somewhere, anywhere, else. The crowd was not nearly as into the match as I would've been for these two, who had a great match. Dragon was arguably in his prime here, and Eddie was always on throughout his career. Much like the opening match, this one was certainly as good as you would expect it to be. Technical prowess, flying, and good storytelling all went into this one, that ended with a brainbuster and a Frog Splash from Guerrero.
Meltzer Rating: ***1/4
This and the Television Title match are the two big matches worth watching on this show.

Goldberg vs. Saturn for the WCW United States Title
The commentators bragged about how "WCW has a finger on the pulse of what WCW fans want". Ill let that one sink in for you. I learned in this match that Saturday Night WCW was still a thing at this time. So WCW fans were expected to follow at least 6 hours of wrestling per week, which is even a lot to expect from a single company today. Saturn was a very unique stirker and personality, and how he never got bigger than he was is a mystery to me. I'm not talking a lot about the match, because you've seen one Goldberg match than you've seen most of them. Actually I lie, because this match was very back and forth, Saturn got a lot of offense on Goldberg before he activated Green powers. This was actually a fun match to watch.
Meltzer Rating: 3/4*
I came out of this match liking both men more for it. Goldberg was getting better at having longer matches, and Saturn got in what he could. I think *3/4 is pretty unfair.

Eric Bischoff stroked his ego for 5 minutes on PPV, coming out to "fight" Vince McMahon and "winning" by countout. They took time throughout the show to build up if Vince was coming (we knew he wasn't via lawsuit). Fuck this all.

Bret Hart vs. Randy Savage, Special Referee Roddy Piper
What do I say about this match? Bret has often said that he lost the passion for wrestling when he jumped to WCW, and you can tell that here. He seems very hollow when he's going through the motions here. What should've been a great match, a classic almost, felt plodding and long. Savage himself seemed to be going through the motions, and the crowd really couldn't care less about the fight. They went hither and yon at one point for a brief spot, that went practically nowhere. The two tried to work a main event level match, but with the fans so not into it, and indeed the wrestlers not really caring like they seem to not here, there was no hope for a match. This match, that Roddy promised wouldn't end in a DQ, ended when he disqualified Randy.
Meltzer Rating: **1/2
I should have liked this match, I should have LOVED this match but I didn't. It actually makes me mad.

The Outsiders (w/Dusty Rhodes) vs Sting and The Giant for the WCW Tag Titles
Scott Hall had to be drunk here. This survey gimmick is ridiculous. But I don't need to go into that. Instead, lets take a minute to appreciate Dusty's holy hell, ugly jacket.
Scott moved like he was drunk, The Giant and Kevin Nash plodded, and Sting looked like he wished he were anywhere else. This was a boring match that set up to Hall and Dusty turning on Nash, keeping the inside war between the nWo fueled. The people reacted appropriately. Nash was alright, I think, and Giant was better than he is now at mid 40s and hurting.

Meltzer Rating: DUD

 This show was great until the last two matches. The card was stacked, and awesome, and full of talent. But a pair of matches with a lack of passion sunk my attitude over all. And that's a shame, because there was a crop of men working really hard to give the people something to enjoy. I want to hope it gets better from here, but I know better.

(All Ratings taken from the May25th issue of the Wrestling Observer)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What team will the NBA rig the Lottery for this year?... (Hint: not the Celtics)

A long rant by B-Cuddy

I’m not a big conspiracy guy. I think Oswald acted alone. Even Lloyd Christmas knows we landed on the Moon. The 9/11 conspiracy guys are just a group of assholes. The “Flat Earth” people are the dumbest fucks of them all. (Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving is one of em. When asked about his belief, he responded with something about people needing to do their own “research.” You see, in Kyrie’s world, a 20 minute YouTube clip amounts to more sophisticated research than all of Science…ever.) Basically, I have a hard time believing a giant number of people can keep a secret. Mostly because half my friends are like the god damn media. You know who you are. Having said all that, there is one conspiracy I believe in whole-heartedly; The NBA Draft Lottery is most definitely rigged.

Now hear me out. To rig the lottery, it wouldn’t take a bunch of people. The Commish, some underling, and a team owner/GM/President. It can be done. And I’m not suggesting that it’s every year. If that were the case, everyone would sniff it out. You got to be crafty. It all depends on circumstances. Here are some examples of when the lottery was fixed:

1. 1985 – The Patrick Ewing Lottery. The one that started it all, and the most famous. The very first Draft Lottery, in a Draft that had 1 transcendent star coming out. Patrick Ewing was the obvious #1 pick that year. The New York Knicks were coming off a terrible season in which the only people who went to Madison Square Garden were hot dog vendors and the homeless for warmth. Commish David Stern and the league were not about to let their biggest market continue to crumble. There are countless stories about some “frozen envelope” out there if you feel like going down a rabbit hole. 

Undeniable proof. 

2. 1993 – Shaquille O’Neal to Orlando. The Magic were an expansion team starting in the ‘89-‘90 season. And when you’re trying to grow the league in a new area, it helps if the team's good. What’s a better way to get good than landing a 7’2” phenom? The Magic were only the 11th worst record that year. And had just a 1.5% chance of winning the #1 pick. Apparently in 1993, people didn’t know Florida was a terrible state. Shaq figured it out years later when he bolted for LA. That’s what happens when your biggest attraction is a fucking mouse. 


3. 2003 – LeBron James. He was the best high school prospect of all time. People put him in a class with Bird, Magic, and Jordan before he could buy a scratch ticket. He grew up in Akron, Ohio. Cleveland won the lottery. That lottery was as fake as LeBron’s hairline. 

Pictured: Lebron James 

4. 2007 – Greg Oden & Kevin Durant. This one offends me most since the Celtics had real odds to land one of the top 2 picks. Instead they got the fucking 5th pick. I can only complain so much since it led to the Allen & Garnett trades. Nonetheless…the Portland Trail Blazers were still reeling from the Jail blazer days when most of their team left in free agency to play for San Quinton. The Seattle Supersonics were up for sale. Conveniently both landed 1,2. The Sonics were subsequently purchased, and hijacked to Oklahoma City.

5. 2011 – Kyrie Flat Earth Irving to Cleveland. You’re going to notice a theme because Cleveland isn’t done on this list. This was the season immediately following LeBron ripping everyone in Cleveland’s heart out on live TV. The NBA felt bad apparently. How touching. 

Cleveland's last good team. 

6. 2012 – Anthony Davis to New Orleans. Davis is a once a decade talent. A big man who can shoot, and play great defense. New Orleans had just been purchased a month prior by saints owner Tom Benson after having no owner for 2 years and being controlled by the league. Let me repeat. BRAND NEW OWNER BOUGHT A PREVIOUSLY LEAGUE CONTROLLED TEAM. Anthony Davis was the thank you gift for buying a franchise nobody wanted.

7. 2014 – Cleveland fucking Cavs again. It was no secret that LeBron James was contemplating returning to Cleveland. However, the Cavs roster still wasn’t great. They had Kyrie, but needed another legit star. You know how you get that star? You win the #1 pick, and waive it in a trade at some team. Funny how it all worked out.

8. 2016 – 76ers & Lakers. Last year’s draft lottery was a bullshit fix if I’ve ever seen one. In December of 2015, the 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo to be chairman of basketball operations. They did this because the NBA pressured them to do so. The 76ers were in the midst of the most blatant tanking run in league history. It made the Chicago Black Sox blush. And the rest of the owners were pissed since it was a huge black eye for the league. As a thanks for listening to the NBA, Philly won the #1 pick. (Weirdly, hours before the lottery supposedly took place, 2 people associated with Philly tweeted their excitement for winning the #1 pick. Joel “Horse Dong” Embiid & Dikembe “Who wants to sex?” Mutombo. I’ll let you google each nickname on your own). The Lakers were terrible that year. The league does not want the LA Lakers to be bad. Plain & simple. 2nd biggest market and one of 2 most storied franchises. It’s just better for business if they’re good. Last year’s draft was considered to generally be a weak one, with only 2 highly rated prospects. Of course Lakers landed one. I want to puke just thinking about it again. Even Vince McMahon thinks that some of those are fucked up. 

"Wait...what? No one's gonna buy this!"

But finally, we made it to this year. Given the draft class is solid, and there are some intriguing franchise circumstances in the air, the draft will almost certainly be pre-determined by the higher-ups. Before I give you a rundown of how the fixing may go down, allow me to try and explain how the lottery is “supposedly” done.
·         There are 14 teams in the lottery. 14 Ping-Pong balls are entered into a machine. Each ball is numbered.
·         The machine is spun, or mixed, or whatever the fuck they do, before each ball is drawn, drawing a total of 4 balls.
·         The 4 balls create a number combination. That number combination is assigned to 1 of the 14 teams.
·         There are 1001 possible combinations. The team with the worst record has the most combinations assigned to them. The team with the worst record gets 25%. 2nd worst gets 19.9%, 3rd gets 15.6%, and so it goes until the 14th worst team gets 0.5%.
·         The lottery drawing is only done for the top 3 picks. After that, the order is just by the team’s record. So if you’re watching on TV, as they count down starting at 14, you notice a team with shit odds is weirdly skipped, that means they jumped all the way to at least #3, and someone in the top of the draft got fucked. Hard.

That’s as easy as I can lay it out. I’m not Will Hunting here for Christ sake. Anyways…at this point you might be asking, “Well how do they rig THAT?” Well I don’t know! But THEY do. 

Here’s a comprehensive (term used very loosely) list of teams the NBA will want to fix the lottery for, accompanied by their supposed draft odds (SO), and their NBA fixing odds (FO), to land in the top 3…

Lakers (SO = 46.9%, FO = 1000%) – In a deep draft like this year, you may ask why the NBA would need to go out of its way to fix the lottery for a team with already the 3rd best odds. Here’s why: If the Lakers somehow fall out of the top 3, they have to send that pick to the 76ers. The Lakers could be bad and not have a draft pick in a loaded class? I DON’T THINK SO! Plus, NBA darling Magic Johnson is now GM for the Lakers. Also, FUCK THE LAKERS. God I hate them.

76ers (SO = 37.8%, FO = 50%) – I’m on the fence about the NBA throwing them another life jacket. With the 4th best odds anyways, they’re setup to get a solid player. The only reason I don’t have them as a certainty is because there are 2 teams behind them have a bigger fixed stench on them.

Knicks (SO = 18.3%, FO = 100%) – The Knicks fucking stink. And it’s been a long time since they haven’t. The owner is a god damn putz. The man in charge, Phil Jackson, is going senile. They literally can’t get out of their own way. The NBA won’t be able to help themselves from trying to salvage this team, and drum up interest in New York.

New Orleans Pelicans (SO = 4%, FO = 66%) – Here’s my dark horse. This team made a big splash at the trade deadline to get DeMarcus Cousins, which makes for an interesting pairing next to Anthony Davis. In theory, the team is only a couple players away from making some noise. Why help them? Here’s another team that has to give up their draft pick if they don’t leap into the top 3. But most importantly, rumors are the next NBA team to possibly go up for sale is this one. It’s the least valued franchise in the league. Basketball (sports in general) doesn’t work in New Orleans. I’m not sure why they keep trying. But the NBA won’t want them sold to people looking to relocate the franchise. So how else do you entice a billionaire to pay for the runt of the litter in a shit market? You sell roster potential, and the idea that winning will create the market. The only argument against the lottery being fixed for them is that the Sacramento Kings get their pick if it’s not in the top 3. Who are a perennial shitshow themselves. 

Side note: This is a pelican. What a dumb fucker. 

Here’s my final prediction for the farce that is the NBA Draft Lottery:
1. Knicks 2. Lakers 3. Pelicans 4. Celtics (and only because they mathematically cannot be lower)

I’m already upset.

p.s. This was written by a Celtics fan that’s disgruntled by their lack of luck in the draft lottery. I will take it all back if the Celts get #1.

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1994)

The final SuperBrawl before the Bischoff Era.  Was it any good?  Let's find out...

SuperBrawl IV - Albany Civic Center - 2.20.94

I went into this show expecting to like it pretty well.  But I didn't really.  WCW's booking under Flair felt very disorganized, like they were trying to adhere to the tropes that had worked for them in the past, but weren't fully committed to the idea.  So it became an awkward hybrid of 1991 WCW and 1991 WWF almost.  And neither company at that time was producing very good results.  Sadly this was the beginning of the end for WCW as we knew it; the roster would very soon resemble the late 80s WWF and the company would hit its creative nadir.

The show began with the introductions for the scheduled opener, Johnny B. Badd vs. Michael Hayes, only for Hayes to roll out in a wheelchair and claim he was too injured to compete.  Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel then announced that Jimmy Garvin would take Hayes' place, but not until later.  So they used up ten minutes on this foolishness.

The actual opener was Harlem Heat vs. Thunder & Lightning, in a pretty well-worked tag bout.  Both teams looked good here and it made me wonder what became of Thunder & Lightning after this (Just looked this up - Lightning was Jeff Farmer, or the future nWo Sting, while Thunder went on to own NWA Ohio).  The ending was a little weak, as Stevie Ray took advantage of a distracted referee to kick one of the babyfaces in the ear, which was somehow enough for the win.  But not a bad way to kick things off.

Next up was a laughably bad match between The Equalizer (later repackaged as Kevin Sullivan's simpleton brother Dave), and, get this, "Jungle" Jim Steele.  Jungle Jim.  Get it?  Jim was more or less a discount store Ultimate Warrior ripoff, with vaguely similar ring gear, a comparable build, and a few of the same mannerisms.  But yeah, this was terrible.  Tony Schiavone actually went on about the great opening matches we'd seen at previous SuperBrawls, as if to say, "...and now we get crap like this."

Jeezus, did Page EAT his future self?
Clearly DDP Yoga wasn't around yet.

Two rather dull matches followed, the first of which pitted a pretty portly Diamond Dallas Page against Terry Taylor.  This started out fairly strong, as Taylor was always a good worker and DDP seemed determined to prove he was more than just a gimmick.  But the bout dragged on several minutes longer than it probably should have.  Taylor won with a quick rollup after nearly 12 minutes.  Heenan's commentary kept this entertaining....

...And saved this next match, Johnny B. Badd vs. Jimmy Garvin.  Badd looked, well, good here, using some solid grappling moves.  Garvin had returned after a two-year layoff and looked like someone's dad in wrestling tights.  This match was a glorified squash that lasted 10:48.  Garvin hardly showed any offense until after the match when he attacked Badd and hit him with the 9-1-1, or as it would later be known, the Stone Cold Stunner.  Not much to this one.

The TV Title was on the line next, as Lord Steven Regal defended against the returning Arn Anderson (who'd missed a few months after the hotel stabbing incident with Sid Vicious) in a special 30-minute time limit match.  Yeah, that time extension was a mistake; this match was incredibly dull for nearly the entire duration.  Neither guy seemed to know what to do to fill thirty minutes (29:54 to be exact), nor was there any urgency to anything they did do.  Aside from a few near-falls toward the end it didn't feel like Anderson was really trying to win the match; at one point with less than a minute to go he broke out a side headlock before remembering this was supposed to be the climax.  What a disappointment.  How much better would a fast-paced fifteen-minute bout have been here?

Ladies and gentlemen, the first fifteen minutes....

The surprise hit of the night was a chaotic Tag Team Title match pitting The Nasty Boys against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.  Payne broke out several suplexes early on (and one botched belly-to-belly at the end that nearly crippled Brian Knobbs), and Cactus did his usual cringe-worthy spots, like taking a back bump off the apron to the unprotected concrete.  This certainly wasn't pretty but it also wasn't boring.  The finish stunk though - Saggs broke a guitar over Payne's head to draw a DQ.  But shockingly this was the best match on the show so far.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Gauche Town 5.15.17: Previously on WWE

Welcome to a brand new feature here at, where Graham LaGauche (@GrahamFCrackers) looks back at the WWE week that was.  Glad to have you aboard Graham!

Welcome to Gauche Town, I’ll be your host though this week’s rollercoaster of emotions through the WWE Universe. I promise you, I actually love pro wrestling.

Gauche Town

WWE was in London this week, so that sucks right off the bat. UK shows are notorious for inflated-ego audiences, and nothing happening. If something does happen, you’ve seen it before. Anyone up for some dueling authority figures on Raw? We haven’t seen that in like a month.

I can tell you last time I took Dean Ambrose seriously: It was when he left Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York. He hopped on the Q train at a station I can frequently be found standing in, looking stupid. I admittedly marked out, because I loved Dean’s work in The Shield, what with the helicopters and cool masks and shit. Dean got on that train and I’m down the road watching on my TV, so excited with wonder at the multitude of New York City-specific things he could bring back to pummel Cena with. He came back from Coney Island with a hot dog cart and attacked people with condiments.


That was almost 3 years ago. This week he’s making barfy sounds and giving people “wacky” nicknames. Dude left his soul in Coney Island.

He’s also the Intercontinental Champion, which for the time being is more important than the Universal Championship. This means all the midcard players are top guys, and all the top guys are just prolonging their side-feuds. Like Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins, which is amazing on paper, but Seth seems like he’s been treading water since he already conquered King H. That match took so long to finally happen that I had lost interest almost a year ago, and Seth has done nothing to gain any outside momentum, except get hurt. At this point I just want to see Joe raze his complacency and send Seth home to think about what he’s done.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

ROH War of The Worlds 2017

The biggest show of this year's War of the Worlds tour is in the book. The third annual tour for New Japan stars in North America, and each of the four cards in the past week easily looked  to be Pay-Per-View caliber. Upon first glances at the four final cards, it looked to me that the New York City show was looking to be the least stacked, the whole show felt very thrown together last minute and banking on New Japan stardom to sell (which it id, but that's irrelevant in my argument). After the show was over, and glad that I shielded myself from spoilers, I found myself torn where the show was on the spectrum. Good? Great? Average? Maybe if I go through each match, I'll be able to piece the answer together easier.

Silas Young vs. Bobby Fish vs. Kushida vs. Dalton Castle
This was a very good opening match. It was ROH's trademark insanity to get the crowd up and ready to go for the rest of the show. However, several problems I have with the show overall can be found in this match. Look at the talent involved in this match; New Japan's Junior Ace, and a trio of Ring of Honor's biggest stars who hold at least a dozen World and Television title matches between them (Fish himself a former Television Champion). Putting these four in an opening, nothing match is very confusing move. Another glaring problem with this show was the length of the matches.Nine matches on the card, the longest of the matches went under fourteen minutes. I would have liked less, longer matches between the talent we had on this show. The way the event went, many of the matches felt both rushed to get to the end, while also coming off as really empty for content. Ultimately, Dalton Castle would win a short, but fast paced match, setting an unfortunate one for the night.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1993)

Welcome to the third installment of WCW SuperBrawl!

SuperBrawl III - Asheville Civic Center - 2.21.93

WCW circa early 1993 still fell under the Bill Watts regime, when the product was stripped-down and gritty.  This made for a nice focus on the in-ring product but also made the bigger shows feel very plain.  I've never been huge on pomp & circumstance, but a touch of it is nice on the big PPVs.  Anyway, the company had come off a creatively pretty successful 1992 and had built up a solid roster of older stars and solid young workers, and their biggest-ever star would make his return on this show.

Steve Austin & Brian Pillman vs. Marcus Bagwell & Erik Watts was a very fun opener.  The future Hollywood Blonds already had great chemistry and used old-school diversionary heel tactics, while Bagwell was once a capable babyface and Watts, despite not at all being over, could work a decent match.  This went probably five minutes longer than it needed to but it was quite good for its place on the card.

Chris Benoit vs. 2 Cold Scorpio was an excellent mix of grappling, counterwrestling, and aerial moves.  These guys meshed really well and despite some slow points in the third act this was easily watchable all the way through.  The finish came when they traded rollups with only seconds left in the time limit, and Scorpio caught Benoit with a pin at 19:59.  Nice timing to get the decision just before the clock reached zero.  Helluva good match, though I wish it had been a few minutes shorter.  By the end it felt like they were filling time to get to the final second.

Wait, I thought top rope moves were banned at this point....

Davey Boy Smith had recently debuted in WCW (a surreal sight if there ever was one), and the third match on this show was a glorified squash to showcase his remarkable skills.  His opponent was the doughy Bill Irwin, who was given very little offense.  The match was passable just because Davey's moveset was entertaining.  But otherwise a throwaway.

Next up was a helluva wild brawl, as Cactus Jack took on Paul Orndorff (freakishly shriveled right arm and all) in a Falls Count Anywhere match.  While tame by today's standards (hell, even by 1996 standards), this was highly engaging and featured several unique Mick Foley spots, like when he got suplexed across the security railing; in 1993 that must've made people cringe.  Orndorff dominated much of the action but Jack secured the win by bashing him over the head with a shovel.  Fun stuff.

How graceful...

Another fun match was next as The Rock n' Roll Express faced The Heavenly Bodies.  This match would oddly take place nine months later on a WWF PPV, which I believe makes it the only match to happen in both companies during the same year.  The only difference was the presence of Stan Lane, who would retire shortly after this and be replaced by Jimmy Del Ray.  This was your basic 80s style RnR Express match, where they control the first half and Jim Cornette's team play the buffoons for a while, then take over on offense after an underhanded spot.  The finish was overbooked and pretty clumsy, like no one was sure how to end it.  Bobby Eaton unsuccessfully ran in, and after several bad-looking near-falls, Robert Gibson won with the worst-executed splash ever.  Decent match overall though.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Archive of Honor: Respect Is Earned

I can't believe it's taken me a year and change to finally start talking about Ring of Honor on this site. The Phoenix of ECW has been my favorite Stateside wrestling company for years now, and I have enough DVDs in my collection from the past 15 years to last me as long as I want. I've wanted to do previews and reviews for ROH the whole time, but school, work, or other reviews got in the way. But a few days ago, I realized that today would be the 10th anniversary of Ring of Honors first ever PPV, Respect is Earned. And it happened that in my massive library expansion last month, Respect is Earned found it's way into my hands. So, if there was ever a reason to review the first DVD in my collection, it's this. Happy Ten Year Anniversary, you glorious Bastards.

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 24 - Preview & Predictions

Welcome to's 2nd Annual look at the NJPW Best of the Super Juniors tournament, where 16 Jr. Heavyweights tear the house down over a period of three weeks.  For those of you not familiar, BOSJ is two round-robin blocks, where each wrestler faces the other seven in his block.  Two points for a win, one for a draw.  Whoever has the most points at the end faces the winner of the other block in the Finals.  The 2017 field looks quite stacked, particularly in Block A, so we should be in for some spectacular matches.

My colleague Landon Wayne (@LSWayne21) and I will break down each competitior and our predictions.  Let's get to it!

Block A

Dragon Lee

Justin: The young lucha has impressed me thus far, particularly in his unsuccessful challenge for Takahashi's Jr. Title in February.  Any match he's in should be worth watching here.

Landon: I feel like the man is intent on killing himself in the ring, and he might die sometime on this tour between Ricochet, Ospereay, and Takahashi. I would’ve put him in the other block personally to keep him away from Takahashi, but Gedo must have a plan.

Hiromu Takahashi

Justin: The Champion has had a stellar 2017 thus far, with numerous excellent Title defenses.  He's become as much of a division cornerstone as Kushida in a very short time, and he carries himself like a major star.  Generally the Champ isn't one to bet on in these tournaments, since the point is to elevate someone to challenge him.  But I certainly wouldn't complain if the "Time Bomb" made the finals.

Landon: Naito’s psychotic godson has become my favorite Junior in New Japan since Wrestle Kingdom. The men he’s being put against for the next month is spectacular, though again very confusing. I would think he’d be in less stacked Block, to leave something to be desired for Dominion. It’ll still be sublime to see him kill himself to kill the others.

Jushin Thunder Liger

Justin: The 50+ veteran still has some legs and should produce some solid work against his young competition.  I don't see him as a block leader though.

Landon: He’s claimed this might be his last BOSJ. I hope Liger takes the levels up to 11 for this run, he’ll need it to keep up with the rest of the block.

Marty Scurll

Justin: The ROH TV Champion makes his NJPW debut in this tourney.  I must confess I'm not all that familiar with Scurll's work but I've read good things.  Hopefully he'll have an Elgin-esque showing in the tourney and we'll see more of him in New Japan.

Landon: I love The Villain. Love. Love. Love. He’s the best Anti-Junior we could have here. He has enough of an aerial offense to keep up, but most of his deal is around breaking an opponent down. It’s gonna be entertaining seeing him go up against the quicker wrestlers in his pool and watch how they work around someone who won’t try to play their game.


Justin: Any Ricochet match here is gonna be must-watch. He has to be considered one of the big favorites to win the whole thing and I can't wait to see the tournament rematch with Ospreay, with whom he stole the entire tour last year.

Landon: It’s Ricochet. Whether you’re a NJPW fan, or a ROH/RevPro/CMLL/PWG fan led into the BOSJ because of the hype, you had to have accidentally walked into a Ricochet match on your way here by now. I feel like I don’t need to say anything about him at this point.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Classic Album Review: Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks is an album I was very late to discovering.  I didn't get into Dylan at all until 2008, and initially I busied myself with his 1960s output, particularly his landmark trilogy of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.  I developed an appreciation for those albums (and some of his early all-acoustic stuff), but none of them quite landed for me as "essential" records.  It wasn't until a year later when I finally gave Blood a listen, and had finally found a true favorite Dylan album.  Here was an emotionally raw, melancholy, atmospheric album that conveyed a sense of grounded maturity Dylan's "rock star" releases of the 60s lacked.

Blood on the Tracks was written and recorded while Dylan was going through a separation from his wife Sara, and while he's denied it repeatedly, the lyrics feel like a cathartic purging of his personal woes.  Nearly every song deals with themes of love, loss, regret, and emotional pain.  If Dylan wasn't directly writing about his disintegrating marriage, it certainly feels like that situation at least shaped his creative process (How could it not?).  The title seems a metaphor for how much of himself he poured into these recordings.  Blood on the Tracks indeed.

Originally nearly every song was recorded in New York as a stripped-down acoustic performance, until Dylan's brother David convinced him to re-record half of them with a full band in Minneapolis, in order to give the album's sound more variety.  The new song versions were hastily recorded only three weeks before the album's release.

The album's tone is set by the bouncy but lyrically forlorn opener "Tangled Up in Blue," where the narrator reconnects with an old flame after many years and realizes he could've made things work with her.  "We always did feel the same/We just saw it from a different point of view..."

The first of the subdued, pensive New York recordings is "Simple Twist of Fate," a somber lament about a failed relationship that begins promisingly but ends with the woman abruptly leaving and the narrator wandering around hoping to find her again.  "Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailors all come in/Maybe she'll pick him out again/How long must he wait..."